The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) Movie Review
Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is a timely and accomplished ensemble piece that aims to spark conversation about the events of the 1960s and how far the country has come since then. The film introduces viewers to the key players of the trial of the Chicago 7, who traveled to the city to protest the Vietnam War during the Democratic National Convention. The film’s powerhouse cast, including Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Frank Langella, relish the opportunity to chew on Sorkin’s timely and provocative language. However, the film falls short in some areas due to Sorkin’s direction, which is too polished and lacks the emotional impact that the story deserves.
Sorkin wastes no time in throwing viewers into the chaos of 1968, where the Vietnam War was at the forefront of public consciousness. The film’s main characters are introduced as they plan their trip to Chicago to protest the war. Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) encourage peaceful protests, while Yippies Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) have a more chaotic approach. David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) is a family man who assures his wife and son that nothing dangerous will happen in Chicago, and Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) promises he too will be in and out without much fanfare.
Months later, an angry Attorney General John Mitchell (John Doman) tasks Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Thomas Foran (J.C. MacKenzie) with the case of their lives, trying the men he believes were responsible for the unrest. The power has shifted from LBJ and AG Ramsey Clark (Michael Keaton) to Nixon and Mitchell, and they want to use Hoffman, Hayden, and the rest as examples of what will happen to those who protest the war. Mark Rylance plays the main attorney for the seven, William Kunstler, and Frank Langella is phenomenal as Judge Julius Hoffman, a man who teeters on that dangerous edge between incompetent and evil.
While there are several wonderful individual moments and beats in “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” the problems stem from Sorkin’s direction. Perhaps because of the importance he places on a script he’s been developing over a decade and has even more weight with the increased protest movement in 2020, Sorkin gets too precious with his characters and dialogue. It’s too polished—there’s no dirt under any fingernails, even Jerry and Abbie’s. Even a place that self-identifies as the Conspiracy House feels like a perfectly-lit set. These men were facing actual prison time, and they very clearly understood their role in history, protest, and even public opinion of the Vietnam War, all during such a messy and uncertain era. But the stakes feel minimized here for that sheen Sorkin does so well, and it doesn't have the emotional impact it should.
The film’s powerhouse cast does an excellent job with their performances. Eddie Redmayne, as Tom Hayden, finds the right key for Hayden’s righteous intellectualism, while Sacha Baron Cohen, as Abbie Hoffman, and Jeremy Strong, as Jerry Rubin, surprise with a winning vulnerability and a hippie buddy comedy dynamic. Mark Rylance’s portrayal of William Kunstler stands out in the ensemble when it comes to making Sorkin’s dialogue sound like it’s actually being thought of just before it’s spoken. Frank Langella perfectly portrays Judge Julius Hoffman, who is both incompetent and evil.
In conclusion, "The Trial of the Chicago 7" is a timely and powerful film that explores the protest movement of the 1960s and the government's attempt to quell it. It features an outstanding ensemble cast, with each actor delivering a great performance, and showcases Aaron Sorkin's signature dialogue and writing style. However, the film's polished and refined approach leaves it feeling a little too manufactured, especially given the messy and uncertain era it portrays.
Despite this, there are many moments in the film that are both engaging and thought-provoking, and it's worth watching for the individual beats alone. The film also serves as an important reminder of the dangers of government suppression of free speech and protest, particularly in light of recent events.
Overall, "The Trial of the Chicago 7" is a well-crafted film that sheds light on an important period in American history. While it may not be perfect, its message is clear, and it will undoubtedly spark conversation and debate among viewers.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.